Fighting games are a type of action game where two (or sometimes more) on-screen characters fight each other. These games typically feature special moves that are triggered using rapid sequences of carefully timed button presses and joystick movements. Games traditionally show fighters from a side-view, even as the genre has progressed from two-dimensional (2D) to three-dimensional (3D) graphics. Street Fighter II, though not the first fighting game, popularized and standardized the conventions of the genre, and similar games released prior to Street Fighter II have since been more explicitly classified as fighting games. Fighting games typically involve hand-to-hand combat, but may also feature melee weapons.
This genre is distinct from beat 'em ups, another action genre involving combat, where the player character must fight many weaker enemies at the same time. During the 1980s publications used the terms "fighting game" and "beat 'em up" interchangeably, along with other terms such as "martial arts simulation" (or more specific terms such as "judo simulator"). With hindsight, critics have argued that the two types of game gradually became dichotomous as they evolved, though the two terms may still be conflated. Fighting games are sometimes grouped with games that feature boxing, UFC, or wrestling. Serious boxing games belong more to the sports game genre than the action game genre, as they aim for a more realistic model of boxing techniques, whereas moves in fighting games tend to be either highly exaggerated or outright fantastical models of Asian martial arts techniques. As such, boxing games, mixed martial arts games, and wrestling games are often described as distinct genres, without comparison to fighting games, and belong more into the Sports game genre.